Thursday 23 February 2012

Skins - If you do this, I’ll leave.

Skins: 6x05 Mini.

I’m so sorry for this. 

Love Love Love. What is it good for? 

Two things: one, the main source of my disappointment over this season (is this the first time I’ve used that word?) is the fact that none of the beautifully established issues and conflicts from season five are still relevant. They’ve been replaced with completely random stories that seem to have no connection whatsoever to who these characters were last year. Sometimes I feel like the stories were written and only attached to their respective characters later on, possibly by throwing darts or drawing straws. I don’t care about edginess, in fact, the word alone makes me cringe. It has no inherent value. It’s nice to see when a show doesn’t pull its punches when it’s necessary to tell a true story, when it is capable of cutting all the crap to get to the core of things, but that’s not what Skins has been doing this season at all. 
Two, and maybe, secretly, that’s the bigger grievance: I feel like there is this other story running like a thread through this season, but always in the background, always only in tiny moments in-between, and whenever you notice it, it’s already gone. That thing between Mini and Liv? Elusive. Franky and Mini’s relationship mostly reduced to meaningful looks – oh well. The burning question of Grace – avoided, because everyone distracts themselves, and Rich is only in this episode for a split-second. I understand that we are all waiting for something to happen for all of this to explode, in a way, later on, but this only works if whatever fills the gaps in the meantime actually works, and it mostly doesn’t. 
And I do understand that this disappointment is the result of what relationships I am most invested in and how they are treated. If I had gone into this season with different personal preferences, who knows how I’d feel at this point. I’m trying to always consider this in my judgements and question how I react to certain events and characters. Take Alo, for example. I found him utterly insufferable in this episode – not unrealistically written though – but maybe too far gone for me to ever truly care about him. Telling someone they are incapable of love merely because they happen to not love you back (and oh, Skins, if we are inevitably steering towards a point where she admits to loving him back, I think we’re done) is the apex of self-involved self-pity and emotional blackmail. I’m not saying that Alo’s feelings aren’t valid – if at some point in the midst of all the fucking and not actually talking or sharing interests or thoughts he did indeed fall in love, fine. Expecting her to do the same and somehow construing that if she did not, she is a worse human being than he is – not fine. I wasn’t even opposed to them necessarily at the beginning of the season, this could have gone anywhere, basically, but the episode also threw an additional wrench into their budding relationship or break-up by providing another character actually treating Mini’s emotions respectfully and not over-stepping boundaries (was Alo actually wanking over the photo album when Mini came into her room?). The contrast between Ryan and Alo was so severe that I will actually scream at the screen if Mini’s future should involve realizing what a decent and caring guy actually is. I would absolutely love for Alo to get an episode in which he cares about something else – Rich, for example, because I think the friendship-version of Alo is totally fine and still a character that I could care about (what I do fear, however, is that the show will randomly manic pixie dream girl him into happiness which, been there, done that, honestly). On the other hand, all of this is a bit hypocritical in the light of my investment in Mini’s happiness regarding her feelings about Franky last season, and I am well aware. 

But whatever, to the episode!

If I were to point out things that I found interesting about the episode (but not necessarily well-developed), the parallels between Mini and Franky would come to mind, and not just because they will share an episode in the future. Franky has abandonment issues, Mini has actual issues with abandonment. Franky has A Nice Guy fall in love with her and would prefer a friendship, Mini is pregnant from A Nice Guy (again, this point is debatable but I think at least the show would like us to regard Alo in this way?) but either does not feel the same way about him or at least isn’t ready to admit it yet because she has pictured a different life for herself. Mini is perceptive about Franky’s issues, which led to a confrontation in the last episode, Franky is observant when it comes to Mini, which is how she is the first and only one to realize that Mini is pregnant. Even the differences turn to similarities by the end of the episode: Franky has concerned and involved parents, Mini has a mum who sneaks into her room naked to steal a bottle of vodka – but by the end of the episode, the available parent with the makeshift family actually says the one resonant thing (not to draw up the most obvious and at the same time most unfitting comparison because they seem so different… spiritually… but Shelley McGuinness had her little Gina Campbell moment there) and possibly provides the much-needed comfort, because sometimes the geezer boyfriend is better than the selfish dad with the fancy apartment. 
Another parallel with Franky’s episode: it’s all about family and belonging and emotionally dealing with the fear of being abandoned. Mini feels like her mother wants her to leave when she invites her new boyfriend to move in, so she contacts her father – who seems excited to have his daughter back in his life at first, as long as he can show her off, dress her up, and hand her to his assistant whenever she doesn’t perform the way he wishes her to. There’s a painful observation at the beginning of the episode, when Mini sees him admits his admiring co-workers: “It’s like the world’s best-looking family”. His family are the people he works with. He left Mini and her mother ages ago, and there is no sign of them in his apartment – he takes a moment to even remember who Mini is when she calls, none of the people at the firm have ever heard of her, and later, when she looks through his personal photos, she is noticeable absent. Shelley knows that Gregory abandons people. Liv knows too, because she’s probably lived through all of this before with Mini, so she realizes that Mini isn’t cautious enough and puts all this hope into someone who always disappoints. 

I can’t really make up my mind about the way Grace keeps appearing (not literally in hallucinations this time, but still) and almost haunting the episode – Alo flips through one of Mini’s photo albums at one point of the episode and says “she looks happy. I miss her too” – and it’s like all the warning lights start flashing, because Mini can’t deal with this at all. Nobody talks about it. Every time someone tries to start that conversation, it ends with Mini leaving the room, or pulling away, or turning off the lights. I assume that this has to eventually happen – in some way or another, they will have to talk about their feelings and process it as a group because clearly, they aren’t able to do it on their own (Alo seems to be better at it than the rest of the group, and I’d love to see him interact with Rich about it) – but for now, Grace is just always there, a noticeable absence to the point where she is almost a presence that is just ignored by everybody. 

And then there’s Franky and her weird fascination with Mini’s pregnancy – and it is a fascination, the same way her reaction to Liv and Matty having sex last season was.  The tragic thing about the episode is that Liv is trying so hard to understand what Mini is going through – she is asking these questions, she is reminding Mini of how this has turned out in the past, of the fact that Greg is not reliable because she knows, she has this objective perspective that Mini completely lacks – and yet, Liv is cut out. Franky is the one who knows about the pregnancy, by accident, because she guessed right, and Liv waits for Mini to trust her enough to share but Mini doesn’t. 
Liv: Interesting evening.
Mini: Don’t start.
Liv: You’re putting way too much into it, you know. With your dad I mean.
Mini: It will be different this time.
Liv: Why. Why do you suddenly need him?
Mini: You tell me.
Liv: No. Mini. You need to start telling me.
Franky comes in before this can go anywhere (and I think part of Liv’s frustration was directed towards Franky, at least it seemed to be “I was this person before you came along and now I am not anymore”), and she and Mini end up alone in a closet (!). 
Franky: You still haven’t told her. Who have you told. Mini? Have you told anyone?
Mini: I haven’t told myself.
Mini decides to tell her dad, I guess in part because she spent the entire episode pretending like she can just quit, she can tell Alo to go away and pretend that her embarrassing friends have nothing to do with her and hook up with the new guy and run away to Sydney with her father – and the father promises. It’s easier to promise than to admit that you’re already getting ready to run. That abandoned apartment – the disconnected phone, the horrible cheque for the abortion – was really inevitable. Her dad isn’t capable of keeping anyone but himself safe. 
So Franky fears being abandoned – and Mini actually finds herself in that awfully empty apartment, left behind once again after putting all her trust into that one person. 
The scene is beautifully acted, it for once has an incredibly fitting score by Fat Segal, and it showcases how brilliantly Freya Mavor inhabits her character. 
But. But she goes off to talk to Alo, to apologize for disregarding her feelings because of course – being abandoned by one of the male figures in her life, she runs to the next to see if that works out, and it doesn’t because he tells her the worst thing imaginable (“I quite like for you not to be here now.” / “It’s too fucking exhausting loving you.” / “I don’t think you know how to love anything”). And then there’s Eric, her mum’s new boyfriend, who promises to stay around and to truly love her mum, so she accepts him, because he is actually an improvement over her dad. 

At that first scan when I saw your little heartbeat on the screen, I loved you, more than anything else. That hasn’t changed. Why don’t you believe me?

Franky takes her to the doctor – so she tells someone else, but not Liv, not Alo. She hesitates to look at the little heartbeat, but when she does, her face lights up as if it has just given her entire life meaning. 

And I don’t know. I just don’t know. 

Random notes: 

Did I mention that I really enjoyed the acting in the episode? Because I did. But sometimes, these days, watching interviews with the cast, I think I’d prefer a reality show about their friendship (aren’t friendships totally awesome?) over Skins itself, which is never a good sign. 

Also, for the record, I am aware of "Grace is still alive and David Blood is just fucking with everybody's head" theories, and if this is really what is happening... let's just say, I really can't imagine a way the show could do this without completely compromising the emotional truthfulness of any of the things that actually worked this season. 

DUDE. Actually invading someone’s privacy the way Alo did at the beginning of the episode when Mini sent him crawling into the adjacent stall – he should be glad he got away with a punch in the dick, honestly. 

The jizz-tasting (says Liv) drink Gregory’s firm Dead Eye is promoting… is called Boudoir… which reminded me that one of the people on the very, very unfortunate The Real L Word wanted to start an internet page on lesbians supposedly called Dirty Boudoir and why do I know and even worse, remember, these things. 

Secretly favourite moment of the episode: Ryan despairing over his failure at IKEA (I, too, have this problem, but I excel at fixing it with glue, duct tape and violence). Also basically Skins if you were gonna have a random not-main character appear in more than one episode, couldn’t it have been Ryan instead of Luke? The suffering that would have spared me. 

Things that made me want to punch Alo in the face: “Can you turn off mega bitch for a moment? I want proper Mini.” NO. A world of No to that manipulative, possessive, crappy bullshit. Alo-Rich friendship’s always nice, though, but I vastly prefer Alo and Rich and Alo being asked to grow up by a world that isn’t waiting for him to get ready to Alo drowning in self-pity. 

Slight improvement in the music department, but hearing On Battleship Hill in the context of Mini excelling at furniture stuff and getting a peck on the cheek from Ryan was a bit weird. “Cruel nature has won again”? 

Alex: You know, homophobia is not your forte. I can tell your heart’s not really in it. 

Oh my god, of course. You’re the boy who… of course. Oh, you brave boy. You poor, poor soldier of love. 

There’s this episode of Parks and Recreation in which Leslie Knope tries to organize this massively interesting party for her boyfriend Justin who’s been everywhere and always has tales of adventure and excitement, and a couple of weeks later, she observes him telling something that matters to her into a story and in the process, completely forgetting about what this means to actual real people – and Ron Swanson, still in his early “sometimes forgetting that he is pretending not to care about human beings” phase provides this beautiful monologue: “He’s a tourist. He vacations in people’s lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on. All he’s interested in are stories. Basically, Leslie, he’s selfish. And you’re not. That’s why you don’t like him.” And that is basically what Gregory reminded me of: the guy who is there for exactly as long as it takes him to collect whatever he wanted from the situation and fucks odf the moment it turns into something he’d actually have to invest something long-term. Basically, you just can’t rely on someone who always has his eyes on the exit. Shelley McGuinness, as annoying and strange and questionable as a parental figure as she might be, does not fuck off. 

Mini: Does he do it on purpose? Just brush me off like that? 
Ryan: No. Never on purpose. 

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